Tropical Fontainebleau, cooler Valais
After arriving in Fontainebleau and trying to battle the tropical conditions we decided to head to cooler temperatures in the Valais region of Switzerland. When people think of bouldering in Switzerland- Ticino or Magic Wood is the first thing that comes to mind. The Valais area of Switzerland was the 90's playground for the bouldering legend Fred Nicole. At Branson he put up the first 8B and 8B+ boulders in the world and established other test pieces all over the region. In more recent times Dave Graham has visited establishing hard blocs in Fionnay and locals such as Fred Moix and Romain Desranges are always on the search for hidden gems.
After the 6 hour drive we headed straight to Branson to get a glimpse at La Danse des Balrog and Radja before the sun went down. Waking up the next morning, it was cereal and coffee then straight to the boulder. I wanted to try Danse des Balrog, now considered 8a+ because of a slightly easier sequence. After working the moves I started on the link, and shortly after topped out into the sun. I was so happy to have climbed such a classic bloc that Fred established in 1992. It was pretty hot at Branson though and so headed up higher to Fionnay. Here we found much cooler temperatures.
Fionnay is home to one of the most impressive boulder problems I have ever seen, Permanent Midnight is a tall overhanging face, starting on an undercut in the centre you climb rightwards through some very shouldery moves to the arête where a more technical finish awaits. This problem blew my mind!!
After a session I had worked out my sequence and so took a rest day in hope of returning to send. I awoke feeling good and my skin had recovered just enough to make it possible to climb the boulder. I felt good after the warm up and although I felt daunted by the bloc I knew I could do it. First go I got set up for the crux but the move I had done the other day felt impossible!! After a few goes at this move I discovered that changing my foot position made it much easier. It was back on. Next go I made it through the crux only to drop a big go again move around the arête!! I was pumped, and didn’t know if I have the power for this move on the link!! Rested, I went again, stuck the move on the arête only for my heel to rip!! Unlucky but I was confident I could do it. Time for a rest. Pulling back on the crux section went ok but the end bit went perfectly, I stuck the go again moved my feet and threw for the top jug!! Topping out in the sun was perfect! What a boulder, I was ecstatic!
The next day we headed to another Fred classic called Future Eaters, this is the hardest 8a I have ever done. And realistically felt more 8a+. I fought so hard to do it but first time through the crux I managed to keep my head together and finish it off. My classic tick list of Fred problems was getting shorter!!
Valais is beautiful, the people are so friendly and I will definitely return. I got so close to a beautiful bloc called Kawa Paradisa, dropping the final hard move 5 times!! Hopefully we will make a day trip over that way from Ticino so I can finish it off.
Back to Fontainebleau and to colder temperatures we hope, two weeks to do some climbing in the forest and then onto to Ticino for six weeks..... Stay tuned!